Here are questions you should ask to help select the right assisted living facility, broken down into eight overarching areas that raise additional questions at each turn.

What are my needs?

No one facility is best for everyone. You need to think carefully about what you’re going to need now and in the future. Figuring this out can help you prioritize your list of needs and wants and match those items with a home better equipped to fulfill them. Do you need round-the-clock care? Once you have clearly identified what your needs are, then look at facilities to see if they can satisfy those needs. Do they have the tools and the physical structure to fulfill whatever that need is? Here, a simple chart may help you organize your thoughts and prevent you from being swayed by a persuasive manager or an attractive building.

How much will it cost?

Knowing as much as you can about what to expect financially ahead of time can help you avoid nasty surprises later. Questions to ask about financing assisted living facilities include:

  • Do fees increase annually, and if so how much?
  • What’s the highest monthly fee that I could ever have?
  • What’s included in the fee?
  • What other a la carte fees are not part of the monthly fee that I need to put into my budget?

Ask if you can see the contract. Many assisted living facilities will gladly share this information. If a facility is cagey about it or doesn’t let you review the contract, that could be a warning flag that something isn’t right. You should also ask about whether the facility you’re considering has up-front fees to move in. Some homes have security deposits. Others have a move-in or admission fee or a one-time or upfront fee. You should also ask if these fees are refundable.

Where is it located?

You should think carefully about where the nursing home is located for maintaining connections. Think about location and how to maintain continuity with the community they’re in. It’s so common in our society for older adults, to be living separately from their children in a different state or region. Often, it becomes important to think about whether the location benefits them in the long term. It might be the nursing home move is also the beginning of the discussion about dependency over the lifespan to avoid too many moves and disruptions. It’s important to begin the search and start having these discussions before a crisis and to think about how life will continue to change for your loved one as he or she ages.

What activities and amenities are available?

One way that old folks homes differentiate themselves is through the activities and amenities they offer. You should ask not only “how many meals a day do I get, but do I have choices on the menu? Do I always have to go to a dining room?” And most importantly: “How does the food taste?”. Food is such an important part of life, and with many older adults needing special diets, it’s critical to find out whether the nursing home you’re considering can handle tastes, preferences and medically-necessary dietary needs. Food is also a major source of enjoyment for many people, and it’s one element of life people with failing health still may have some control over, so it’s an important consideration.

How is healthcare delivered?

You need to make sure that your loved one is being taken care of properly. For that, they need to ensure all care is being documented and care is being administered on time. For example, how are medications dispensed and managed for adults who need assistance with that? How often are vital signs recorded and how are they being tracked? Nursing homes that don’t have computer-based systems need to be avoided because nurses tend to forget and miss things when they write things down. Also, your loved one will spend more time with nurses and aides than with anyone else, so watch how they relate with residents and one another.

Other Concerns and Preferences

It’s important to ask early on about simple logistical questions such as whether you can bring your own things with you. How do you pay the bills and when do you need to pay them? Check to see if there’s an online portal you can log in and see your invoices and recent vitals data of your loved one. Newer and better run facilities tend to have these things.